Tuesday, January 10, 2012

First Words Workshop: Four Seconds

To see how the workshop began, read THIS post: An Analysis of First Pages.


  This Month's Anonymous Contemporary Young Adult Excerpt:
           
            Four seconds left. I watch from the stands as Tim Seginski passes the basketball to Nate Hardman. The clock starts. Nate races down court.
            Three seconds. I hear the pound, pound, pound of the basketball.
            Two seconds. Nate reaches mid-court.
            One second. Nate launches the ball. I hold my breath. The ball arcs toward the hoop.
            Time stops.
            The ball drops…
            THROUGH THE NET!
            What a shot! I leap to my feet. Band members hug. Cheerleaders hug. Students and parents hug. I wish a certain girl would hug me….
            If we'd made thirty more points, we’d have won by one.


My thoughts are in Red:


            Four seconds left. I watch from the stands as Tim Seginski passes the basketball to Nate Hardman. The clock starts. Nate races down court.
            Three seconds. I hear the pound, pound, pound of the basketball.
            Two seconds. Nate reaches mid-court. Nice tension!
            One second. Nate launches the ball. I hold my breath. The ball arcs toward the hoop.
            Time stops.
            The ball drops…
            THROUGH THE NET! I enjoyed the action and the tension here. The only thing missing for me is knowing who's talking. Is it a guy or a girl? If one minute detail could be thrown in, like maybe something to identify his sneakers, his clothes, his hair or something to tell me it's male POV.
            What a shot! I leap to my feet. Band members hug. Cheerleaders hug. Students and parents hug. I wish a certain girl would hug me…. Cute! But where is this girl? Is she in the stands, a cheerleader? Maybe he glances at her somewhere in here to heighten the tension.
            If we'd made thirty more points, we’d have won by one. FUNNY! I had to read it three times to "get it", which might be me and needing more coffee. :-) But I felt like a word was missing, like only, or maybe it could be worded differently? 


Also, the tension at the beginning made it seem like this was "a big game". Was the game important for some reason? Kind of anti-climatic in a way and it makes me wonder if it's important to start the story there. Unless you tell us right after why this game was important to the MC or the school? That would help. Maybe it's just a matter of having "any" points on the board is a victory for this team--see what I mean?


Stina's thoughts are in Blue:


       Four seconds left. (Great first sentence. I had it feeling it had something to do with sports, but I was compelled enough to keep reading). I watch from the stands as Tim Seginski passes the basketball to Nate Hardman. The clock starts. Nate races down court.
      Three seconds. I hear the pound, pound, pound of the basketball. (Nice use of the rhetorical device (pound, pound, pound). My only issue is that I feel distanced from the main character because of the word ‘hear’. Just tell me what he hears. Don’t tell me he heard it. Make me feel as if I’m in the moment, in the character’s head.)
       Two seconds. Nate reaches mid-court.
       One second. Nate launches the ball. I hold my breath.(What about the audience? Does a hush roll through it, like everyone is suspended in time (but be more original than that) or are they screaming? Does everyone gasp at the same time?) The ball arcs toward the hoop.
       Time stops.
       The ball drops… (This sounds very SF. As if time standstills and the ball is unable to freeze mid air and drops into the net. It’s not a big deal, and I do like the urgency of your short sentences here.)
       THROUGH THE NET!
       What a shot! I leap to my feet. Band members hug. Cheerleaders hug. Students and parents hug. I wish a certain girl would hug me….
       If we'd made thirty more points, we’d have won by one. (I’m intrigued. Why are they celebrating when they lost by 29 points?)
        My only concern is you’ve given me no reason to care. I don’t care about the character. He’s not even in the game. I would have cared more for him if he was the one throwing the ball. I recently read a YA contemp novel with a similar start, but the main character was the player and I kept reading because I was involved in the emotion of the game. Her game. I wanted to know if her team won and what would happen next.
       You did a great job showing the urgency of the moment with the short sentences. As you know, you didn’t have time for fancy imagery and inner thoughts. The game isn’t stopping for that.


POSSIBLE REWRITE BASED ON BOTH SETS OF COMMENTS:


          Four seconds left. In my side view I spot Tara clench her pom poms as I wring the baseball cap in my hands.  Tim Seginski passes the basketball to Nate Hardman. The clock starts. I watch from the top row of the stands as Nate races down court.
            Three seconds. The basketball pounds, pounds, pounds the floor.
            Two seconds. Nate reaches mid-court.
            One second. Nate launches the ball. I hold my breath as a collective gasp rolls through our side of the stands. The ball arcs toward the hoop.
            Time stops.
            The ball drops…
            THROUGH THE NET!
            What a shot! I leap to my feet. Band members hug. Cheerleaders hug. Students and parents hug. I wish a certain girl would hug me….
            If we'd only made thirty more points, we would have actually won a game! At least it was one point better than last season's shut out. 


***********************


Two different viewpoints to take or leave. Thanks for this great entry!


Do you want YOUR first 100 words work-shopped? Email me!

13 comments:

Stina Lindenblatt said...

LOL That picture looks like me this morning. But I have less gray hair. :D

salarsenッ said...

Both critiques are wonderful. I agree with wanting to know 'who or at least where' this girl is. Sounds like the writer could add a little more intrigue and tension exploring that just a bit.

Nice job, everyone!

Joanne said...

The rewrite is definitely most effective. Even removing words like "I hear" help to keep the reader right in the action. Great job ...

Slamdunk said...

I enjoyed the page and suggestions. I initially disagreed with Stina's last point in that they could be celebrating because it was a great long shot or because a kid who rarely scores hit the basket--but then I saw her point. It would have been better if I knew why everyone was so happy.

Overall, nice start and rewrite.

Christina Lee said...

I have more gray hair, Stina--LOL!

Kelly Polark said...

I LOVE basketball so a fun read for me.
I agree with so much of your tweaks.
I still think the sentence, "The basketball pounds, pounds, pounds the floor. Maybe just use the noise words. Bounce. Bounce. Bounce. (but no more than three, as it's just one second he's dribbling).The reader will know its the ball.
I at first wondered why no mention of other team trying to get the ball, but when I read the ending, it made sense that they allowed Nate to get to midcourt without trying to steal the ball!
Cute ending. I like your rewording so won/one wasn't in same breath.

Liz @ A Nut in a Nutshell said...

I liked your point about him stealing a glance at the girl making it a little more interesting, and Stina is right that there's not anything especially pushing us to care about the character.

Anonymous said...

Interesting blog. Nice comments and critiques on the entry. I feel like 100 words isn't enough to grab the readers attention. Good rewrite but you added 48 more words to the 100 word limit...is that in the rules? Defiantly a challenge to keep within 100 words and hook a readers curiosity.

D.J.

Christina Lee said...

Hi D.J.!

100 words might not be enough but certainly can be important when an agent/editor is reading your work for the first time.

The purpose of this workshop is just to show the writer where they could spruce up their writing w/o knowing much about the story, yet. It's to ask--did they capture my interest or not? And then it's up to them to go back and think on it more!

Thanks for stopping by!

Theresa Milstein said...

Ooo--basketball! I liked the scene, but I think the critique was spot on. A little in the head would add to this piece.

Kim Van Sickler said...

I enjoyed reading Christine's and Stina's comments, but thought Stina's comment about the MC being involved in some way would add more urgency to the re-write. Would love for him to be the one throwing the ball into the basket, but if it couldn't be him, then could he be involved in one of the passes that led to the throw?

Lindsay N. Currie said...

Wow, this is really interesting and I would have to agree with a lot of your comments. Very cool ladies:)

Dianne K. Salerni said...

The last line made me laugh, and my take was that their team must really stink for them to be that happy about a basket, even when losing that badly. It was my favorite part, because I'm not a sports fan, so there's no way you're going to get me caught up in the tension of the game. Making me laugh is your best shot. (ha, that's a pun)

I do agree with the other comments. Since we don't know who the narrator is, or what connection he has with the players he mentioned or the girl he wishes would hug him, it's hard to care a lot about him. But he DID make me laugh, so he's got that going for him!